Caring for our Koalas symposium addresses key conservation issues

Positive influence: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage's Mike Roache urged attendees at the Koala symposium to not use negativity to harness community support.
Positive influence: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage's Mike Roache urged attendees at the Koala symposium to not use negativity to harness community support.

Just don't mention the 'e' word.

That was one of the stronger messages to come from a successful Caring for our Koalas symposium held in Port Macquarie on Thursday.

The event is a part of the regional Hello Koalas Festival running in the Hastings until Sunday June 9 at the UNSW Shared Health Research and Education Centre (SHREC) auditorium at Highfields Circuit.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage's Mike Roache, said the 'negativity' associated with the word 'extinction' in discussing the future of koalas was 'a turn-off'.

Mr Roache was one of almost 20 key note speakers gathered to discuss the ongoing care and preservation of the endangered species.

As the threatened species issue management and coordinator, saving our species iconic koala project, Mr Roache is part of a team that have just launched a new community website to celebrate koala conservation.

Mr Roache said the website was aimed at supporting all groups and individuals who were 'doing their bit' in the conversation and care of koalas.

"There has been a lot of negative talk about the plight of koalas recently," Mr Roache said.

"Koala (numbers) are declining, they are a threatened species. They are continuing to decline.

"But those negative messages are not the way to engage people in conservation. A UK study looked at messaging around biodiversity conservation and found that messages of loss and fear switch people off.

"The very mention of functional extinction of koalas makes people think that it is too late.

"Messages about hope and love and action switch people on," he said.

"It makes them want to contribute."

Morning talk: Mike Roache, Margret Meagher, Dr Rebecca Montague-Drake, Scott Lawrence and Cheyne Flanagan were among the key note speakers at the morning session of the Koala symposium on Thursday.

Morning talk: Mike Roache, Margret Meagher, Dr Rebecca Montague-Drake, Scott Lawrence and Cheyne Flanagan were among the key note speakers at the morning session of the Koala symposium on Thursday.

Mr Roache said the website celebrates our love of koalas and promotes action and is a tool to engage more people in koala conservation.

It is a key plank in the saving our species iconic koala project.

Mr Roache said individual action was important but the engaging of more people would help in the success of the project.

"The project works on four pillars of actions: habitat conservation, conservation through community action, safety and health of koala populations and building our knowledge and education," he said.

Koala Hospital Port Macquarie clinical director and Koala Conservation Australia's Cheyne Flanagan said there were several ways to improve the livelihood of koalas.

"Buying appropriate land and improving the way we treat koalas through improving medications is one of our aims in the conversation process," she said.

"We also need to learn more about koala behaviour. The more we understand koala behaviour the more we can understand how the removal of their habitat affects their behaviour."

She said it was also important to conserve habitat. "Every single tree is important," she added.

Ms Flanagan called for the planting of thousands of eucalyptus and to continue to put pressure on state and federal governments for continued action.

She said there was a real need to educate each other too.

"Koala conservation is not a case of this being someone's else's problem. All of us, all of us, must stop the decline in koala numbers. It is a team effort," she said.

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